Environment & History


  • It was the great hydraulic intervention (271 b.Ch.) of the Roman consul Curio Dentato who brought to life the Falls, had not only the merit to receive the Velino waters that became swampy in the Sabina (the Reatina Plain), but also connected the two catchment basins (Nera-Velino) and the two rivers became one with one attributing to the other. If on one hand the so-called “Curiano Channel” made life easy for the Sabina inhabitants, on the other hand it created many inconveniences to the lower Valnerina and for the Interamna Plain ( Terni ) inhabitants. It was, during the overflowing periods of the two rivers that the territory underneath was often subjected to flooding. For the functioning of the channel, famous is the legal battle (54 b.Ch.) of which we don’t know the final result, between Marco Tullio Cicerone, defender of the Sabina inhabitants (they want the enlargement of the channel) and Aulo Pompeo, defender of the Interamnati (they were against improved interventions). Always to confirm the risks of the flooding, the historian Caius Cornelius Tacitus refers of a great flooding of the Valnerina and of Interamna until Rome, (the Nera is one of the greatest attributes of the Tiber) which happened around the 15 b.Ch., under the Emperor Tiberius. With the Fall of the Roman Empire, the barbaric invasion and the development of the feudal system the planed territories and the countryside were gradually abandoned. The lack of maintenance of the Curiano channel caused the raising of the base level and as a consequence the re-swamping of the Reatina Plain. We need to wait till beginning of the XV century to re-do a new land reclamation. In 1418 after some battles with the Ternan people who were against the intervention because they were afraid of further overflowing, Braccio Fortebraccio da Montone, in that time, lord of a large part of the church territories which included Terni and Narni, gave the work to the engineer Aristotile Fioravanti who concluded it. in 1422 creating a new channel called “Reatino”. The following year (1547) on the commission of Pope Paolo III, a third channel was created by the Florentine Architect Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. The intervention, made 40 years later, wasn’t sufficient and in 1596 the Pope Clemente III decided to commission a group of engineers and plumbers for doing a general recognition of the whole territory. In 1601 the architect Giovanni Fontana inaugurated the last and definitive “Clementino channel” excavated in accordance to the ancient Curiano channel characterized by a strong inclination in the last 400 metres and from the presence of a regulatory bridge which had to control the Velino waters during the overflow periods. In 1787 the architect Andrea Vici made a diagonal cut to the second drop, deviating part of the water and creating a lateral cataract in order to increase the surface volume of the water and to diminish the impact at the bottom of the Nera Valley . This is the last adjustment which gave to the Falls the present day aspect, and therefore is considered one of the most beautiful and suggestive sceneries in Italy.
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  • The archaeological excavations and the chance findings of the last century in Marmore and in the area of Piediluco are evidence of the organized lake dwellings and of important religious buildings and sites since the Bronze Age. Around 1914 some galleries had been excavated near Marmore Falls in order to give more power to the plants which produced carbide thanks to the strength of the water. Among these, there is the Bull Gallery, after a first trait excavated in the compact calcareous rocks, the workers found tuffs and yellow sands: here a great bronze fibula arch and an unturned clay vase was found. Moreover there was a fireplace with fragments of vases and stone works. It is probably a cave used from the middle to the end of the Bronze Age (XVII-X century b. Ch.) for religious purposes. In Cor delle Fosse, near Marmore, on the edges of one of the great ditches that flows the Velino waters towards the Falls, a great truncated cone vase was found, full of sand and ashes with other objects around there as for example loom and spools. these types of objects, linked to weaving and to spinning lead to the fascinating hypothesis of a water religion linked to the female world. In 1868 during the works on the national road n.30 Terni-Rieti, by the ancient port of “Piediluco Lake” there was by chance discovered in a cavity excavated in the calcareous rock, a terracotta recipient of great dimension, a “dolio” that contained a great quantity of the bronze objects (we suppose more than 400 pounds in weight) : it is the so-called “hiding-place of Piediluco”. We certainly aren’t in front of votive offerings, but it would be the presence of a deposit called “Contigliano” in Reatino ( 110 objects made of bronze or fragmentary and 3 ceramic fragments) and a third group of handmade objects belonging to the ancient Velino river area (today preserved in Copenaghen Museum and we don’t know exactly the place of origin). In the first eighty years of the XX century several recognitions were done and about 30 pro-historic sites were recognized, in many cases they were in a short distance from each other (less than 1 km). Following to such discoveries showed a modification of the only model of the lake basin in existence, during all the proto-historic period, for more basins. In both the Piediluco and Reatino areas they developed lake dwellings in the planed area or, in some cases, at the bottom of mountainside low relieves with the surrounding plain (il Rivo, la Mola, Podere Colle d’Agnano, La Bandita, etc.; this information emerges above all at the time of the final Bronze Age (XI-X century b. Ch.). The settlement located in Rivo (probably contemporary to the evidence of the Piediluco’s hidden-place) is characterized by the presence of mixture fragments on the area of 100 metres in length: some forms decorations that generally belong to the final Bronze Age seem to be associated to some fragments with large engraved motifs that are similar to the vase decorations of the XI century b.Ch. discovered in the Necropolis of the Steelworks. The finding of two crucibles in two sites, La Mola and La Bandita, testify the presence of local metallurgical activity that confirm the local production of the major part of the objects that pertain to the three hiding-places of the above mentioned. However during the final Bronze Age in the area of Piediluco lake we see the crisis of the settlement system (the crisis had already been in the Reatino during the Bronze Middle Age), maybe due to the consequences of bad climatic conditions and the raising of the lakeside level and with the development of the first Iron Age begins a proto-urban settlement in Terni: in the first Iron Age a long period of setting begins in the important settled area of Maratta Bassa (X-XI century b. Ch.). In the same period the burying of the Steelworks necropolis must be noted and was probably connected to the important settlement area located in the Pentima Hill area. Shortly after seemed to be the first settling of the present historical centre of Terni: it is a fluvial terrace nearly entirely surrounded by the two courses water of the Nera and the Serra river which formed a natural defence (this is why the Latin form Interamna, “a city between two rivers”). We add, moreover, that during the excavations of the Steelworks necropolis, in November of 1909, there were found near Pentima Hill the finds of a proto-historic settlement of over 200 years older than the above mentioned necropolis and it belongs to the beginning of the Neolithic Age (the second half of the VI millennium b. Ch.). From the Iron Age on, the wide Plain of Terni became progressively free from the predominance of the lake waters, transformed progressively into an enormous expanse of the fertile fields. Such fertility was the result of lake and river sediments accumulated over hundreds of million years. Terni district entered under the power of the Romans at the beginning of the III century b.Ch., immediately after the conquest of Sabina ended in 290 b.Ch. by the consul Curius Dentato who started the works for the creation of the famous Curiano Channel. Near Marmore Falls it is possible to see a Roman bridge of the Augustan Age: it is the Bull Bridge, with a length of about 20 metres and the arch is formed by 16 regular wedges. It is located in the left side of the Nera River which has an oblique position in accordance to the river bed that in the Roman Age must have had a different course. Some proto-historic finds and many other objects discovered in Marmore come from the different sites in Terni and from neighbouring areas ( belong to a period which goes from the Neolithic Age to the late Old Age) are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Terni.
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Arts and Literature

  • The first mention of the Marmore Falls in the history of literature goes back to the Roman period: Virgilio, in the VII book of the Aeneid, referred it “to a valley of dark forests and between the woods a river that rumbles and falls through great rocky masses ”. Also Dante Alighieri in the XX song of the paradise writes: “seem to hear a murmur of a river – that falls bright from stone to stone”. But it is only from the beginning of the XVII century (after the construction of the definitive and last Clementino channel) that the Waterfall begins to have a relevant role in figurative culture and in European poetics making a deep impression on the imaginary of the poets, drawers and painters, above all the painters of vedutas. Many travellers who came from Florence and were heading Rome for arrived at the Falls: the difficulties of visiting the place were overcome with the aid of guides that lead the traveller with horses beyond Villa Graziani until the panoramic view of Monte Pennarossa from where they could admire a superb view of the Waterfall. Villa Graziani has always been a type of side-room of the Waterfall for all the famous visitors who stayed here: the imperial princess of the two Sicily’s, the king of Bavaria, Ferdinando II king of the two Sicily’s and many other painters and painters of vedutas such as Emil Corot who stayed for long periods in Valnerina. The Neapolitan painter Salvatore Rosa is one of the first to testify his own admiration for the wonderful scenery, defining it as “a thing which brings to life every insatiable mind” and lays the foundation for the norm “horrified beauty” that would be emphasized by the romantic poets. The Falls conquered its definitive role in the figurative culture and in the poetic of the XII and XIX century thanks to the location of Terni in the Grand Tour, a travel that nobles and intellectuals made throughout Europe, leaving from Paris, crossing the centre of the France and Switzerland to arrive in Italy and complete their own cultural training and to deepen their studies. The Falls became one of the beauties necessary to see; its rainbow was considered among one of the Italian wonders like Pompei and Vesuvius. This is why there are a lot of paintings and carvings dedicated to the Falls. Its defined fortune in the European culture was due to the poems of George Byron in the IV song “Pilgrimage of Child Harold” where it re-emphasizes the concept of “horrified beauty”: Turn again and look! She comes forth like eternity, to consume all that she meets, with a shocking and frightening look, unparallel cataract horribly beautiful! In the travel and guide books, the Falls has been glorified for the roaring and richness of its waters, for the intensity of its rainbow, for its stunning thunder and for the surrounded landscape. Only in the XX century it became the symbol of strength and of energy, to become in 1945, thanks to the painter of Terni Giuseppe Preziosi, the symbol of the Ternanan Society, the greatest industry in Terni and one of the main important Italian companies.
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  • During the centuries, the inhabitants of the area has been always tried to take advantage of the abundance of water available and of the particular geo-morphological content of the area. Until the second half of the XIX century, the Nera and Velino waters had been used for irrigation, through the works of canalization, and for the working of the hydraulic wheels for mills and factories. After the Italy Union in 1861, Gioacchino Pepoli, extraordinary general commissioner for Umbria, symbolized for Terni the role of the “an industrial commercial and working city of the New Italy”. During those years, the two projects for using the Velino waters weren’t realized. In 1869 Pietro Maestri general director of Statistics of the commercial, industrial and agricultural Ministry, confirmed that the Velino and the Nera waters produced an hydraulic potential of 200,000h vapour. Between 1873 1879 designed by the engineer Sconocchia, the Nerino channel was built in order to feed the Weapons Factory, started in Terni in 1879, and then provided engine power also for the other factories such as the Gruber Wool Mill, Centurini Jute Mill, the Foundry and the Industrial Society in Valnerina. For the realization and the management of the channel was formed an association promoted and lead by the Municipality of Terni and also the industrials Cini, Gruber and Cassian Bon. The Nerino channel, over 2 kilometres in length carried an average volume of 27 metres2 of water a second. The use of the Velino waters for industrial purposes materialized, instead, in 1886 when a derivation of 5 mc/s was realized from the Curiano channel at the height of Marmore. Using the Collestatte well as a clarification bed, through a water course of about 6 and an half kilometres, with a 200 metredifference in height, inside the galleries and penstocks, arrived at the bottom, providing the necessary engine power for the working of all the machinery of the Terni Steelworks, the first in Italy, built between 1884 and 1886 by the Society of “Iron and Steel of Terni” (SAFFAT). It was the first application on a large scale of the hydraulic energy realized in. In 1896 the carbide society inaugurated in Collestatte the first Italian plant for the production of carbide which followed 1901 in Papigno (some of the buildings are now cinematographic studios used also by Roberto Benigni to make films such as “la vita è bella” and “Pinocchio”). Apart from the SAFFAT, in the first years of 1900, other plants acquired concessions for the production of electric energy. Several hydroelectric plants were established in a short time (Mamore, Collestatte, Papigno, Cervara, Spoleto, Terni), all work thanks to the Velino waters which caused many contentions which were resolved in 1922 when all became the property of SAFFAT that joined with the carbide society which became “ Terni , Society for Electricity and Industry”. In 1924 the same society linked the Piediluco lake to the Velino river and blocked the Curiano channel with a dam that allowed the use of the lake as a weekly regulation basin for the plant of Papigno. At the beginning of the XX century, along side with the struggle to ensure the exploitation of the waters of the Nera-Velino system, worrying rumours began to circulate and over a long time not listened to from some intellectuals that brought up the problem of the “missing” of the Marmore Falls. The fears increased when in 1927 the “Terni Society” obtained from theMunicipality of Terni , the concession for twenty five-years of rights over the use of the Velino waters having in this way the possibility to exercise the exclusive monopoly of the production, management and distribution of the electric energy that comes from the waters in the entire basin. In 1929 the Galleto power plant realized on project by the Architect Bazzani, the Galleto power began and in 1932 became with its 4 hydroelectric groups of 160.000 KW of power in all, the biggest hydroelectric unit inEurope . For the water supply of the plant, the Velino water was directed into two different forced galleries which pass over the railway Terni-Rieti and arrive in a penstock 1.100 metres long and from 20 to 26 metres deep. From this channel there is a further penstock of a 7.35 metre in diameter and of about 730 metres in length that at the end divide into two smaller penstocks with two wells which then divide the mains that work the great turbines. Between 1929 and 1931, the factory then built the Medio Nera channel to carry into the Piediluco lake the Nera waters and its mountain attributes Corno and Vigi and as a consequence increased the productive capacity of the Galleto power plant. Nevertheless in 1929 the Public Works Ministry issued a disposition which forecasted the opening of the flow of waters during the holidays for a total of 486 hours every year,Marmore Falls , from the beginning of the Galleto power plant, was closed until 1954, when the province of Terni and Terni Society agreed to an annual opening of 770 hours. In the meantime, in 1945, the Waterfall became the symbol of Terni Society realized by the Ternanan painter Giuseppe Preziosi. Starting from 1962, the Enel (National Electricity Board) purchased all of the electric production plants in to realize the previous agreement referring to the opening of the Falls. In 1998 the Enel realized the first night lighting plant for the improvement of the naturalistic area, formed by 52 lighting centres with variable watts between 250 and 2500, allowing in this way to benefit from the spectacle of the Falls also during the night. In 2002 Endesa, the new management of the Galleto power plant, has undersigned a new convention with the Municipality and the Province of Terni that increased the opening hours to about 1.000. During the last years, the waters of the Nera side immediately at the bottom of the Falls has been used also for a “recreational” purposes: to practice rafting, kayaking, hydrospeed and canoeing.
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  • Marmore Falls has a very ancient natural history. This history is strictly linked to the geological vicissitudes that the territory suffered during the last 500.000 years and dictated the conditions so that the Velino river at a certain point joined with the Nera River in the area known today as Marmore. The Marmore Waterfall is an important regulation axis of superficial water drainage over a wide area, in a hydrological point of view it meets two great depressions: the Rieti and the Tiber basins. But it hasn’t always been in this way. These two areas, known in geological terms as mountain basins are of tectonic origins and strictly linked to the elevation of the Apennine mountain ranges. The Velino river, influenced by these events which caused the geological evolution of the Rieti basin, interested more and more the northern area of the basin. Here, the faults created a narrow way between the mountainous ranges, known today as “Piano di Canale”. A research published in a recent book points out that about 100.000 years ago, this opening allowed the Velino river to break in the North to mix its water with the Nera river that, in the meanwhile, followed the phases of the geological evolution of the Ternanan basin, the southern area of the Tiber basin. In that time the Nera river flowed about70 metres higher than today and the confluence came through a series of rapids and little stairs more or less marked. With the passing of the years, while the Nera river deepen its course, the Velino, above all in the confluence area, accumulated great quantities of travertine, seeing that the waters are enriched by calcium carbonate from the springs located at the bottom. Here, the morphological conditions, together with the great quantity of vaporized water from the falls and from the rapids, created an enormous travertine dam. The consequence was to stop completely the only opening which allowed to evacuate all the canalized waters which collected in the Rieti basins. Therefore the block at Marmore caused an accumulation of water at the bottom, swamping the Reatina Plain. We are almost in an important period in which in a short time, we see development of a great hydraulic engineering scheme work: the Romans, foresaw the enormous power of the soils fertility that form the swamp beds, engraved with a channel the surface area of a travertine plastron and in this way the waters of the Velino recommended to fall internally in the bed of the Nera River recreating ,also, a waterfall at Marmore. In the naturalistic area of the Marmore Falls exists more than 300 natural caves, all these are explored by the Bat Speleological group of CAI (Italian alpine club) of Terni.
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  • The abundance of the water, not only deeply impressed the Valnerina but characterized also strongly the vegetation of theWaterfall Park with native species of great value. There is a Mediterranean climate with a dry summer season and with an average annual temperature above 0° C. These climatic conditions are mitigated at the bottom of the Nerina Valley that is not only narrow and shady, but also very wet. In this area, in fact, the air saturated by many little water particles created by the aerosol phenomenon. The large body of water, falling down with a great impact on the rocks and on the ground at the bottom of the three drops, breaks into little particles and disperses in the air, creating a vapour effect. This complex microclimatic situation appears with a forest mixed with evergreen sclerophylls and with Mediterranean deciduous plants. The wooden vegetation which covers the slopes and the rocky walls is composed of oak (Quecus ilex), the black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) recognizable for its lanceolate leaves with serrated margins, the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) while between the shrubs we can find the laburnum (Laburnum anagroydes), the mountain sorbs (Sorbus aria) and the butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus). The half-rocky areas characterized by the calcareous rocks are populated by a thick vegetation formed by heather (Erica multiflora), juniper (Juniperus communis and Juniperus oxicedus) and box-tree(Buxus sempervirens), xerothermic relict of the Tertiary, a species of great naturalistic value not very common in Umbria . The wet and travertine rocks are the ideal habitat for fern, musk and liverwort, plants with a very simple anatomy that need a constant presence of humidity to guarantee their own survival and the reproductive phenomena. Among the most representative types of liverwort is the marcascent (Marchantia Polymorpha) presents in the spaces between the rocks where the water constantly passes through and drips; referring to a fern of great value there is the Cervina tongue (phylitis scolopendrium) and the maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) while the more abundant musk there are the Cratoneuron. All these species create the most peculiar and suggestive park environment: great and soft rugs of emerald which cover the rock stratum penetrated by water!! Along the edges of the Nera river there is the classical riparian vegetation where the trees on the opposite sides can over to form fresh and shady galleries. The white willow (salix alba), the biggest willow with its long branches and silver leaves, the black alder (alnus glutinosa) and the Lombardy poplar (Populus nigras) are the most widely present riparian species. In Monte Pennarossa, in front of the Falls there are thick patches of ilex grove mingled with Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis).
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Timetables October

Opening of
the Area
Opening of
the Water
Working days 10.00am - 6.00pm only on FRIDAY
from 12.00am to 1.00pm
from 3.00pm to 4.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 10.00am - 8.00pm from 11.00am to 1.00pm
from 3.00pm to 6.00pm
Holidays and Specials:
9.00am - 8.00pm from 11.00am to 1.00pm
from 3.00pm to 6.00pm

Choose your guided tour

October 2018

Belvedere Inferiore
P.le F. Fatati 6

Belvedere Superiore
Voc. Cascata 30

Tel. 0744 62982
Fax 0744 362231
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